STOP! THE INSTAGRAM ALGORITHM IS NOT AFFECTING YOUR GROWTH (+ 2019 UPDATE)
We need to talk about the Instagram algorithm. Not a day goes by where I don’t talk to a client or follower complaining about what the Instagram algorithm update has done to their Instagram numbers.
If someone sees a drop in engagement or slow follower growth, they’re almost uniformly blamed on the algorithm. It’s now got to the point where “my posts are performing badly because of the algorithm” is an easy excuse to make. But what if the problem is actually with your content?
Let me be the first to say that I’m not judging people here. I’m speaking out of experience because I too have blamed the algorithm for my bad content. There have been times in the past when I’ve rushed to put something together and it has definitely not been my best work.
In the past I used to get really low engagement and I was growing at a snail’s pace. Of course, my initial reaction to this was “what is the algorithm doing?”, but with hindsight I know it was all down to me.
So maybe it’s time we all stopped and asked ourselves a difficult question: “Am I blaming the algorithm for my bad content?”
When it comes to the Instagram update 2019, there’s no shortage of rumours as to what works best.
Should you put hashtags in the comments or hashtags in the captions?
Don’t send your post in a message
Comments on other posts must be at least 4.5 words long
Oh, and you have to post while doing the moonwalk if you want to get over 100 likes instantly.
Many of these rumours, when you think about them, don’t make any sense. So let’s strip away the exaggeration and look at the facts of the Instagram algorithm.
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Remember that Instagram is a business
Instagram, like most businesses out there, exists to make money. Its purpose isn’t to make your life difficult. It doesn’t want to make you jump through hoops and play along to an invisible rulebook just for the hell of it.
Next time you hear an Instagram algorithm “hack”, ask yourself whether that helps Instagram make money. More often than not, it’s a no. A multi-billion dollar company isn’t going to invest time and resources into creating features it doesn’t want you to use, so concentrate on the features that are available to you within the platform right now.
This is the mindset I’ve developed around Instagram and what I coach my clients on too: think about what the platform wants. You can use this for all algorithmic platforms. Think about what the platform wants and work with it to help it get there. In doing so, you will be rewarded too.
So what does Instagram want? There’s more on that later but in a nutshell, it wants to keep users in the app for as long as possible so that it can sell advertising space on the platform for increasingly high price tags.
The Instagram algorithm has therefore been designed to achieve that end by showing users high quality, relevant content they’re going to engage with and increase the time they are spending on the app.
SO THE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ASK YOURSELF IS: ARE YOU HELPING INSTAGRAM WITH THEIR PURPOSE?
Below, I’m going to take you through the key ways you can work with Instagram better and give you an Instagram algorithm 2019 update.
But first, I want to draw your attention to my 12-week 1:1 coaching programme, the Busy To Boss Method because within it, we have a full 90-minute training dedicated to Instagram. If you want to know how to use Instagram to create more of a community, understand where to focus your energy and time with Instagram, and learn how to create a cohesive Instagram feed, this programme will give you the tools and strategies you need to get the results you desire. My community grows at a rate of 100 followers a week, my engagement keeps climbing higher and it’s all because of the strategies that I teach in this part of the programme.
Start your journey in the Busy To Boss Method by applying here.
Create Highly Valuable Content
What is the number one reason people stay on the Instagram app just that little bit longer? Because they’re being served amazing content. Think about when you’re scrolling the feed and then that one blurry picture of your friend on a night out comes up. It knocks you out of that scrolling trance and reminds you of all the other things you’re supposed to be doing.
Instagram wants to keep people in that trance, so you need to be creating content that will make that happen.
When I see people complaining about their lack of engagement, their content isn’t cohesive. I’m not saying that in a mean way, because I’m sure if they looked at their feed objectively, they’d say their content wasn’t their best work too. But it’s become so easy to blame the algorithm that it’s stopping us from being critical of, and analysing, our own work.
Take the above two examples of my feed for instance. The one on the left isn’t consistent or cohesive, it’s very much thrown together and you can see that I’m just experimenting with different techniques to see what works best. But the one on the right is branded, cohesive, high quality, and represents a holistic version of myself and my business.
The content always comes first.
Don’t Be Spammy
The shadowbanning saga from 2017/18 was a period of time when everyone’s dissatisfaction with the Instagram algorithm was at an all-time high. But instead of throwing our hands in the air and crying “the algorithm is trying to ruin our lives!”, what we should have done was go back again to what the platform was trying to achieve.
Part of Instagram’s mission as we know is to keep people on the app by showing them quality content. This was Instagram trying to root out the spammers, and that’s a good thing. The trouble was that it was a computer doing it.
With so many rumours being passed around about Instagram daily, it’s hard to understand what is and what isn’t considered spammy behaviour. My advice is to forget all the hacks and pretend for a minute that you’re a real person.
By this I don’t mean someone who studies Instagram and is on the platform day in day out. I mean pretend you’re an average Joe using it just as a social network (because this is the audience the platform is geared up to serve).
How do they behave? Well they don’t throw around thousands of likes and comments in a day. They only follow people they like. They don’t use the same hashtags every day because they’re not posting the same types of images.
Moral of the story: use Instagram like a human and you won’t be spammy.
Be An Engaging Member Of The Community
I’m willing to bet that many of the people who complain about their engagement due to the Instagram algorithm are post-and-runners. Meaning they don’t hang around and engage with other accounts after they post. They like rather than comment and they wait for engagement to come to them rather than being proactive.
I always advise my clients who have smaller accounts to use engagement as a way around the algorithm. Instead of waiting and relying on the algorithm to show people your post, bypass it altogether and get in front of people by commenting.
Show up in their comments with something meaningful or hilarious and they’ll come over to see your account too. And Instagram being the reciprocal place it is means that many of them will engage back. Make sure your captions include a CTA and invite engagement to really maximise this.
Real human connection will always trump any formula. If you believe that your content deserves more, stop refreshing your notifications and go start a conversation.
Instagram Algorithm Updates (What You Need To Know)
I keep up to date with all online marketing and social media changes so you don’t have to. And I can confidently tell you that there is NEVER a need to freak out over “an algorithm change”.
However, with Tech Crunch leaking information about what Instagram is up to, I figure I’d summarise it for you and tell you my thoughts.
LIKES WILL NOT BE VISIBLE
Your followers won’t be able to see how many likes your post has received (this metric will only be available to you). Instagram wants to “reduce pressure” from the user and create a happier platform experience. They want you to concentrate more on building relationships, not obsessing over how many likes you get.
CHRONOLOGICAL POSTS MAY COME BACK
A few accounts have already seen a “show new posts” button their feed. I cannot confirm, but I’m all for it.
CONNECTIVE CONTENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER BEFORE
With the Instagram algorithm focusing less on vanity metrics (likes, comments, etc.), it’s crucial that you learn how to master connection and communication with your audience. This means talking to them on a human-to-human level - not screaming for attention on the internet like most people do.
BUILD A PROFITABLE AUDIENCE
Does your audience really know who you are? Do they trust you? Are you posting value-based content that they can implement right away into their lives? In order to profit off a personal brand, you MUST create content based on problems your ideal client is facing.
Instagram is catering more and more to e-commerce brands by adding shopping cart features and easy payment transactions. Post reactions (similar to Facebook) are also being tested.
The basic thing you need to remember? Connection over Vanity Metrics.
If you need help navigating these new features of the Instagram algorithm and grow your community with real followers, apply to work with me 1:1 in the Busy To Boss Method.
What can you do right now to shift your mindset around the Instagram algorithm and start being more proactive?